Author Archives: justifiedandsinner

The Problem of “Free Will” is we don’t want it freed….

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.”  Mark 2:17

You may say, “Well, did God not endow us with a free will?”19 I reply: To be sure, he gave you a free will. But why do you want to make it your own will? Why not let it remain free? If you do with it whatever you will, it is not a free will, but your own will. God did not give you or anyone else a will of your own. Your own will comes from the devil and from Adam, who transformed the free will received from God into his own. A free will does not want its own way but looks only to God’s will for direction. By so doing it then also remains free, untrammeled and unshackled.

The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”11 And they invite people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ:

I had perceived—via God’s grace, not my own wit, surely—that since God is love, we must therefore love God and love whatever God loves; that if we turn to the divine Conductor and follow the wise and loving baton that is His will, His Word, then the music of our life will be a symphony.

Over the years, I have heard people argue over the concept of free will.  Some would say we have it, others would simply say we don’t, that God is not only responsible for all of our actions, but He chooses what we will do, in every moment.  I’ve heard it blamed for our sinful choices, and for the temptations that we tried to avoid, but gave into and sinned.  Somehow people think because God gave us the ability to decide to wreck out lives, He is responsible for their breaking.

Until reading Luther this morning, I never conceived of the idea that free will could mean that it is not “our will”; not “my will” or “your will”, but the ability to simply have a will that is free, and therefore can be influenced by God,  A will that Kreeft describes himself realizing that God is love, and therefore we should resonate with His love, and love what He loves.  The power of free will then, is not aligning it to our own desires, but letting it be guided, let it resonate with the will of God.

After all, isn’t that the invitation Jesus came to deliver?  That those of us who are sinners, will be freed from sin, able to walk with Him?

That is why we train people in the faith; why we make disciples, not converts; why we catechize, answering the real questions of faith, rather than indoctrinate.

It’s not to force one’s will to be Christ’s, it is to help people see that their will, their Spirit, once clean of all sin of all injustice, resonates with Jesus.  For we were made in God’s image, and the Spirit causes us to realize this, as we realize the love of God.

This resonance is why salvation, realizing God has removed dampen and distort our lives, is so joyous. A guitar or violin string doesn’t have to be forced to sound, a similar string resonating brings its movement and sound.  Just as the word of God resonates with a truly “free will” creating joy where it resounds.

Heavenly Father, please, once again, send the Holy Spirit to remove all that would distort and dampen the will the Holy Spirit has restored.  In Jesus’ name!  Amen!

 

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 48

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 107..

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 16.

Do You Really Have Faith in God? Do I?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
25  Whenever you stand up to pray, you must forgive what others have done to you. Then your Father in heaven will forgive your sins.  Mark 11:25 (CEV) 

12  God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. 13  Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. 14  Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together. Colossians 3:12-14 (CEV)

Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

In the second place, this petition mortifies us through other people who antagonize us, assail us, disquiet us, and oppose our will in every way, who mock not only our worldly actions but also our good spiritual works, such as our prayers, our fasting, our acts of kindness, who, in brief, are never at peace with us. O what a priceless blessing this is! We should really pay such assailants all our goods, for they are the ones who fulfil this petition in us. They are the ones through whom God breaks our will so that his will may be done. This is why Christ says in Matthew 5 [:25], “Make friends quickly with your accuser.” That is, we must surrender our will and accept our adversary’s will as good, for in that way our will is broken. In the breaking of our will God’s will is done; for he wants to see our will hindered and broken.

The Letter of St. James notes that we should demonstrate our faith in our works.  That is not always easy!  Especially when it comes to demonstrating our trust in God when it comes to the adversaries, enemies, and jackasses we have to deal with in everyday life.

The Catholics have it right when they say sin originates in letting our trust in God die in our hearts. It is then, as we turn our back on the Holy Spirit that we take power into our own hands, and do what God says not to do.

Like seek revenge, or curse those who oppose us, or simply forget they were created by God, and treat them without the love and respect the children of God should receive.

We have to trust, when people oppose us, that God is doing what He has promised to do, that all things, even the opposition, will work for good.  As Luther notes, God may be using them to break our will, so that His will may be done. Whether they realize this or not, we should be thankful to God.

That is why we can forgive them, realizing that their actions are actually blessings.  That they show God’s love for us, although in ways that are pretty frustrating, and yes, humbling.  We must realize that God is behind it. We must realize that His love is manifested in what these people are doing, saying, thinking.  God’s will is being done, not theirs, and definitely not ours.

This is why St. Paul’s advice to “Put up with each other” and “forgive anyone who does you wrong” is preceded by words reminding us of the FACT that God loves us, and chose us to be His own   That must come first, the relationship, the love that matters more than anything else. The love of Christ, that poured our in water and blood, the love that unites us all, cleansing us of ALL sin.  Binding us together.  Demonstrating how faithful God is to us, and how He, in His love, empowers our ability to look to Him, depend on Him, have faith in Him, even while persecuted…

Lord, we have faith in You, help us to have faith!
Lord, Have mercy on me, a sinner! 

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 100.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 44–45.

The LIGHT Streams Into Our Lives: a sermon based on John 1:10-14

The Light Streams in Our Lives
John 1:10-14

In Jesus Name

May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ shock you!

  • Kreeft and Love

I just started a new book, one I didn’t know a favorite author named Peter Kreeft wrote. In the introduction, he writes something quite startling,

“God loves you”—isn’t that the most well-worn of clichés? It’s just standard filler for the laziest, most obvious and repetitive homilies. Smile. Yawn. Everybody knows that by now, at least everybody who has ever been in a church or read a Bible.
No. Exactly the opposite. It is not familiar. It is shattering. It changes everything. And most Christians do not realize it.
[1]

Even as I encountered this in my readings this week, It took me a moment to think about it.  Do we know what love is? Do we really know understand it, have we experienced it?

Does it shock you when I tell you that God loves you enough that Jesus died, for you! For you Tom, for you Sandy, for you Missy, even for you who are watching this…

God loves you…

Does it still shock you, this love, when you hear the words I speak at Jesus’ command, “Your sins are forgiven you!”

Or when, into your hand, or on your tongue I place the Body of Christ, and the deacon gives you the cup containing His blood?  Are you startled then?

If you aren’t, I apologize.

I haven’t revealed to you clearly enough what it means that God is love… and that love is aimed at you.

  • Would we recognize Him today? Or would we reject Him?

In the St. John’s gospel, there is something as staggering to hear,

10  He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11  He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.

I still don’t understand this, how in the world could they miss Him with the way he taught, so different from all the others.  He who brought healing into their lives, He who dared to forgive the vilest of sins.

He who had compassion on the most broken, those haunted by their sin, those possessed by demons, those who couldn’t be faithful to Him, like Peter and James and John…who even doubted when they saw Him risen from the dead and about to ascend to heaven.

How could they not recognize Him? Consider what Peter would write, “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Yet they did not recognize Him, and I am not sure we do either when we encounter Him in the lives of the people He so dearly loves.  And even if we realize it from a theological perspective, that doesn’t mean we realize His love for us.

We need to have Jesus revealed to us, through Word and Sacrament, we have to be reminded of His presence and His love.

His love streams among us

So what does it mean when John’s gospel and Peter’s epistle say that saw His glory, His majestic splendor.  What is that they saw, when Jesus came and made His home with them, with us?

Simply put, it is the fact that God is love.  And that He loves us- this is what they saw… God, in Christ, had compassion on them, he was charitable towards them. He loved them, just as He loves us.

From Peter Kreeft again (did I start the right week to read this, or what?_

Jesus does not merely give us advice about agape. He gives us agape. He exchanges selves with us: we are put in Him, and He is put in us. He is the Love that “does not insist on its own way”. First Corinthians 13 is a description of Christ. His love can be in us only because He is in us. We attain agape not by trying a little harder but by faith, by believing and thus receiving (Jn 1:12), by letting Him in, letting Him invade us, possess us, haunt us.[2]

This is it, we can love because He loves us.

We are loved.  How much?  Look at the cross, see what He experienced there, so you can experience His love.  Look at the font, where He brings you into Himself, fuses your life to His own. Come to the altar…. And realize how much love it takes to forgive every single sin you have committed.  No, how much it cost to forgive just that sin.

All this stuff about Christmas, the gifts, the tree, the flowers, the manger, it is all there to convince you of this.

So that you can believe in Him, trust in Him, and know that you have become the children of God. Shocking isn’t it… You are loved.

God loves you. He wants you with Him, now and forever

I can’t explain it any clearer than that.

God loves you… and always will.  AMEN!

[1] Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 11.

[2] Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 85.

I Don’t Think That Word Means What You Think It Means!

This word... princess pride

Devotional Thoughts for the Day:
16  God is wonderful and glorious. I pray that his Spirit will make you become strong followers 17  and that Christ will live in your hearts because of your faith. Stand firm and be deeply rooted in his love. 18  I pray that you and all of God’s people will understand what is called wide or long or high or deep. 19  I want you to know all about Christ’s love, although it is too wonderful to be measured. Then your lives will be filled with all that God is. Ephesians 3:16-19 (CEV)

How sweet amidst all the uncertainties of life, to know that “the foundation of the Lord standeth sure,” and to have God’s own promise, “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” Like dying David, I will sing of this, even though my house be not so with God as my heart desireth.

“God loves you”—isn’t that the most well-worn of clichés? It’s just standard filler for the laziest, most obvious and repetitive homilies. Smile. Yawn. Everybody knows that by now, at least everybody who has ever been in a church or read a Bible.
No. Exactly the opposite. It is not familiar. It is shattering. It changes everything. And most Christians do not realize it.

If hearing God is love doesn’t cause you to step back in shock, and in awe, then perhaps you don’t know who He is, or you don’t understand what love means.

That claim of Peter Kreeft is pretty shocking, and the more I think about it, the more certain I am that he is right.

I wish I knew why we don’t understand that God is love, and that He loves you and me.

The more I think about it, that would be my one desire in life, to be able to make people understand this word “love’ and how it binds God’s heart and soul to ours, how it should become our reason for existence.

For it is how we live, and why we live… …

Think about it.

Not I mean it – for a few minutes.

It should shatter us, it should make us weep, it should make us question why, knowing the depth our sin, and how much we, as Spurgeon wrote, don’t have our house with God as much as we desire.

Yet He still loves us.

We need to explore that, savor that, let it rock us to the very foundations of our lives.

It should shock us, this desire of God to care for us, to be devoted to us, to know us so well, to love us.

Take time each day to think that through, each morning, and evening, and every moment in between that you have a moment.

God is love…and that Love is directed to you.  AMEN!

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 11.

God’s Awkward Love…. for us

woman wearing black shirt

Photo by MIXU on Pexels.com

Devotional Thoughts for the Day

Please, LORD, remember, you have always been patient and kind. 7 Forget each wrong I did when I was young. Show how truly kind you are and remember me. 8 You are honest and merciful, and you teach sinners how to follow your path. Psalm 25:6-8  CEV

To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.

In the second place, righteousness consists of this, that having known and judged ourselves, we do not despair before God’s judgment seat, before which we plead guilty in this petition, but that we seek refuge in God’s mercy and firmly trust that he will deliver us from our disobedience to his will

Yes, beloved believer, you and I have had times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and then our faith has mounted to the topmost heights of assurance. We have had confidence to lean our heads upon the bosom of our Lord, and we have no more questioned our Master’s affection to us than John did when in that blessed posture; nay, nor so much: for the dark question, “Lord, is it I that shall betray thee?” has been put far from us. He has kissed us with the kisses of his mouth, and killed our doubts by the closeness of his embrace. His love has been sweeter than wine to our souls.

I struggled with including the last sentence of the quote from Spurgeon.  It is awkward-sounding, extremely awkward-sounding to my ears, and I wondered how people would take it. But after delaying writing this devotion for an hour or so, I decided it needs to stay, but the journey towards it has to be taken, so be patient, and I will explain why.

First, let’s go up to the quote from the Roman Catholic Catechism and the definition of sin.  Sin isn’t about breaking the rules, not really.  As the Catechism points out, it can only be defined in view of the relationship between man and God.  It is a betrayal of the worse kind, a complete discounting of the relationship God desires with us. It calls to mind the pain of Judas’s kiss, that greeting when we calmly indicate God isn’t wanted in our lives, unless He plays by our rules, and takes on the form of the obedient servant.  (which we sometimes think is what He wants – but again – that isn’t what He set up!) Rome is right, we all to often embrace the weight of sin, and the misery it causes, and has caused throughout history.

Luther’s words provide a nice response to that. The first step, judge yourself and plead guilty of sins.  Second Step, do so with the vision of being cleansed clear in your mind, seeking refuge in God’s mercy.  Step three, depend on God that He will, no He has delivered us from this body, dead in sin.

But this is by no means a clinical process, a procedure that can be followed step by step, simply reciting some prayers we don’t hear the words of, as we’ve said them too many times. We need to think about the damage we’ve done, the pain we’ve caused, the grief, not to punish ourselves more, but to appreciate what God does, when He forgives those sins.  I like how the CEV translates Psalm 25, full of that confidence, yet with the childlike wonder that asks the impossible, knowing God our Father will make it happen.

WHich is where Spurgeon’s awkward passage comes in, where we are so distraught by our sin, that Jesus has to hold us and assure us that He is putting that sin far away from us, and the thoughts about it too.   Embracing us, not with sensuality, but with the intimate tenderness that puts an end to our distress.  Embracing us in a way that counter’s Judas’s kiss.

Yes it is awkwardly written, for us who live in a different time, and culture. Then again, it is awkward going up to someone you betrayed, and asking them if they can make it right, if they can forgive, and forget, and heal the brokenness that we caused.  Awkward, completely awkward.  Horribly awkward.

Confession has to be awkward, but even more awkward is the forgiveness that follows..And the assurance of God’s love, which we broken people need!.

And we need to hear His voice telling us we are forgiven, we are loved, and He will be with us… until He brings us home.

That’s awkward, and we need it… and He provides it.

To God be the glory, for great things He has done!

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 97.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 43.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

An Advent Sermon Series: The Relationships of Christmas Past, Present, and Future (Genesis 44-45)

Concordia Christmas Eve 2015

The Relationships of Christmas Past
Genesis 44:30-44

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus convince you of the healing that is indeed happening in your life, and in the lives of those you knew in Christmases past…

Haunted

I can imagine, as Judah stands before the brother he does not recognize, the heartache that he feels.  His heart and soul flashbacks to the look in his father’s eyes when they told him of Joseph’s death. Of watching his dad weep for months,

How it must have ate him up, even though he knew his brother probably wasn’t dead, but simply a slave somewhere.

Still, he had to look down, and see his father, wracked with tears, and live with his father’s overprotective nature toward Joseph’s younger brother, the only joy this broken man had…

Judah then considers having to break the news to his father, that his other son would be lost to him as well. His heart breaks, as guilt and shame have so weakened him, he realizes he can’t go back, he can’t watch his father die, because of the sin he has committed.

Surely he is haunted far more than Bob Marley or the most of the ghost of Christmas past ever could.

Our Relationships of Christmas Past

For many of us, the holidays are a challenge. We miss many dear friends and family.  Some are memories form our youth, like those we looked up to have past away, some of them decades ago.

Others are missing for a different reason.

Our sin.

Maybe we didn’t sell them into slavery, but the effect is much the same.  We never, ever, want to bump into each other, for the sin that divides us is too grievous.  Like Judah, thinking of the pain he caused his father, (not even thinking of Joseph) we can’t live with it. I can’t imagine bearing up with that kind of pain for decades…

Or can I?

I think back to the relationships of Christmases past, and know the absence of lives that brought joy, people I had fun with, that won’t be there this year without a miracle.  If I think about it, I understand all to well the pain that Judah felt, as he considered going back to his father,

I could easily share in the words of Judah,

33 Sir, I am your slave. Please let me stay here in place of Benjamin and let him return home with his brothers. 34 How can I face my father if Benjamin isn’t with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father in such sorrow.

As we regret the past, as we wish we, as we pray like Judah did, as we grieve over the damage of our sin, we hear God respond, “no…”

It is hard to hear God answer no…

So hard we don’t always hear, “my son, that is not necessary….”

But our Brother can..

It is actually impossible to take care of what we’ve broken and shattered. We can’t take the place of the joy, we can’t somehow sacrifice the life we have to restore that which is broken.

But that isn’t why God says “no”

He says no because He had already taken care of the sin that caused Judah’s grief, and anxiety.  The brother he thinks dead, he is standing before. What his and his brother’s sin threw away, the love of their Father is now going to be restored.

This is the moment that is the perfect example of Advent.  We stand before the King who is about to be revealed, trying to do with our guilt and shame, trying to figure out how to face the eternal consequences for our actions. How can we face God our father, when the relationships of our past mean our brother, our sister, isn’t going to be with us?  It is as this moment we understand the power of Advent and the greater moment of Christmas…

We really need to hear what God has already said, we need to hear it with all our heart and all our mind, and all our soul.

“Let it be done for you as you believe. By Jesus’ command I tell you, Your sins are forgiven, and what was done for evil, God will use for good. This is promised in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN!”

______________________________________________________________

The Relationships of Christmas Present
Genesis 45:-18a

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that broken relationships you deal with today are healed.
A Quick Review of the past

Last week, we looked at relationships of Christmas past, and we walked in the footsteps of Judah and his brothers. We saw the desire, and the inability to make up for the sins we’ve committed against others.

We had to see the only hope to deal with the guilt, the shame, the separation was to put it into God’s hands.

So now we come to the Relationships of Christmas Present…

In this moment!

Instead of walking in Judah’s footsteps, we have to exchange them for Joseph’s and deal with the pain of relationships in the present, those relationships that will not be celebrated at Christmas, because sin has again divided us.

Not our sin this time… “theirs!”

You know who I am talking about, every one of us has someone who, if they walked in the room right now, we would not want to interact with them. We may not be angry at them, we may not be burying our resentment, or at least we tell ourselves this.  But the pain is there. The heartache, and the discomfort when they walk in the room.

Joseph’s attitude:

If only we could see them, as Joseph saw his brothers, if only we could weep at the division between us, if only we could ask them to “please come closer,” and urge them as he did, “don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for hurting me this way,”

If only our grief caused by their sin was able to be dealt with in that way!

If only… we could love more than we hurt…

if only… the relationship meant more to us… than our pain.

My God, there are days where I wish I had the strength of Joseph’s faith…

But I do not…and if I read scripture right, neither do any of you.

The Key To Healing Relationships of Christmas Present

There is only one way to be able to generate that much strength, that much desire to see things “made right” in the relationship with us, that someone shattered. It is walking in Joseph’s steps and seeing what God has done, not in their life, but in ours.

That is where Joseph looks and sees God at work in His life. He sees God at work, as He promised to be, making everything work for good for those who love Him, those He’s called to be His own people.

It isn’t so much that we make the decision to love them, that we will ourselves to give up the pain and the hurt, that we willingly just give Jesus the resentment and pain.

It fades away, in the light of His glory, it fades away as we see the manger, and realize He is with us, it fades away.. as we see the cross, and realize He lived and died and rose again… because He loves us.

and there, in that moment, we find ourselves, empowered and driven by the Holy Spirit, going to those who’ve sinned against us, with tears in our eyes, saying,

It is I, your brother, don’t be afraid, don’t be upset with yourselves, God is at work here…

And then be amazed, for the peace of God which passes all understanding envelops you all, and guards your heart and soul and mind.  AMEN!

__________________________________________________________________

The relationships of Christmas Future
Genesis 45:16-21-25-28

In Jesus Name

May the grace mercy and peace of God enable you to see the result of God reconciling us all into Himself.

The Journey Past and Present

This advent we’ve already looked at the Relationships of Christmas Past, those times where we have not been there, the times where our sin has dramatically impacted relationships, much as Judah and His brothers betrayed and sinned against Joseph.

And we saw how Christ did what Judah could not do, taking on the punishment we deserved.  Knowing that gave us hope for the relationships we broke in the past.

Then we looked at the Relationships of Christmas Present, and saw the relationships shattered by the sins of others.

We saw Joseph find the grace that comes when we realize God is at work in our lives, and that all things work out for God, even the things that people planned ot hurt us.

Now we get into the look for relationships in our future.., including those of the past and present.  It is the hope to which each of the previous weeks pointed to, it is the hope of advent, it is the hope that parable of scrooge pointed to as well – relationships healed by the power of God

What the King has in mind

When the news gets to the Pharaoh and his leaders that Joseph’s brothers had come, the reaction is amazing. Here is how it reads, “When it was told in the palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, the king and his officials were happy”  But “happy” is then seen in the reaction – “go get them, I will give them the nest of everything. They can eat and enjoy it all!”

That sounds more like the meaning behind the Hebrew there… which ranges from “it was very good, to delightful. Pharaoh was excited = you see his reaction – give them the best Joseph – the best of whatever I got!

That’s a picture of heaven, not the getting the best stuff, but the excitement of the Pharaoh is the excitement that God has, in seeing us “come home!” It is the regathering, the people that matter to God, His people whom Jesus died for, finally ending up where they belong!

It’s that joy we need to see tonight, the joy of God as He sees us as we are in Christ – reconciled together.

That is why Pharaoh includes this instruction as well, “They can leave their possessions behind,”  

The more we understand God’s delight, His joy for His people to dwell in His presence, the more this makes sense.  We don’t have to bring all the baggage we carry in this life!

Pharaoh provided everything they needed, just get in the chariots and come!

This is what God does for us, providing everything we need to dwell with Him, not just during the hard times of this life, but for eternity.

But the excitement – go get the people – bring them!

This amazing Pharaoh is as much a picture of God our Father as the Pharaoh 425 years later will not be!

I Must GO – His Son is really alive!

Up to this point in the story, Jacob has been distressed and depressed. And when the moving chariots get there, I love his reaction,

“My son Joseph must really be alive, and I will get to see him before I die.”

It reminds me of Joseph’s words,

26  And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! 27  I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! Job 19:26-27 (NLT2)

What makes the difference here is the interaction, Jacob will see his son, Job will see God, we will encounter Jesus,.

A son, once thought dead is found alive, and not only is he alive, but he is reigning and sits at the right hand of the King, Jacob’s life changed dramatically.

Just as Jesus has risen, and not is He alive, He reigns at the right hand of the Father, our lives have changed, reconciled, restored. He is truly risen!

Therefore, We ARE RISEN INDEED,

And when we see Him every relationship will be healed, will be made whole, as all dwell with the Lord, who has forgiven our sins, and united us all in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  AMEN!

 

 

The context of the bad news, makes the good news so much sweeter…

Good News Bible
Devotional Thought fo the Day

18  Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. 19  Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!20  You will show us your faithfulness and unfailing love as you promised to our ancestors Abraham and Jacob long ago. Micah 7:18-20 (NLT2)

The text (Joel 2:13) commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation.

I hate watching hospital shows, whether it is E.R. in the old days, or Gray’s Anatomy or any of the clones today. I actually thought I found one I liked, the ads said the guy did medicine the right way, and I have to admit, it was interesting the first couple of shows. I thought it might be a nicer version of “House.”

But as with all of them, they eventually get to the episode featuring the patient with Marphans, and it gets too personal.

Back in the ’90s, I had a cardiac arrest and had to have CPR performed n me for 15 minutes, then resuscitated 5 times with a defibrillator.  And though I have no memory of when they said clear and shocked me, my body still feels it when I hear those words on a television show.

It is painful to face my own mortality again.

And yet, that same pain renders me thankful for the lady who performed CPR, and for the paramedics and doctors who shocked me back to life.

As I’ve talked to others like me, there is often a different outlook on life. Because we’ve experienced death because we know how fragile life is, life is different.

Spurgeon understands this spiritually, in order for us to grieve over sin, we need to take it ot the cross, to look on the body that was beaten, pierced, and hung on a cross. We need to understand of all those executed in history, Jesus could have stopped the entire charade and made it right. We need to hear the words of Jesus on the cross and realize His entire life was aimed at this very moment.

He chose not to.

He chose to die that you and I could know the wonder that amazes Hosea. The amazement that God overlooks our sins, the compassion that causes Him to be faithful to promises made centuries ago, but to keep those promises for you and me.

I wonder if we can ever appreciate that sacrifice unless we see it in face of our grievous sins. Can we truly appreciate that love, unless we come face to face with our jealousy, our gossip, our desire for the things of others, or our lust, or desire for revenge?  Or simply our desire to play God, and create idols of our own choosing?

You see that in Acts 2, when the people who thought they were good, who thought they were God’s people (and were) realized that they had killed the Messiah. You see it in Paul’s encounter on the road, in the myriad of stories where people encounter Jesus or the apostles, and realize how far they have fallen, and then are picked up, dusted off, and the prodigal is no longer the prodigal, they are a son of God.

You need to realize what you were, not grieve over it, but to rejoice in what God is doing to us, and to look forward to the day when that work is complete.

Rejoice, your sins, which were as dark as night, causing you to decay like a corpse, those sins are forgiven because of the death of Christ.  And because He is risen, so have you.

Rejoice my friends, rejoice.


C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Advent Streams: Singing – a sermon on Isaiah 35:1-10

Altar with communionStreaming to a Joyous Place!
Isaiah 35:1-10

† Jesus, Son, Savior †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to sing!

Getting excited…

I had a great conversation (well, we sent messages across the internet) with a promising young theologian this week. He went to the youth group here back in the day, and he asked me some questions about advent.

As we were talking about the idea that Advent is just as much about the Second Coming as Christmas, you could see his mind spinning and a grin break out as he wrote:

“The hope is that the whole of creation can finally Shabbat (that is rest)!

:” and you can wrap in that from the winter (sin) comes the new spring and the new life”

“I like it.  I mostly remember the songs and candles of Advent. But it’s awesome to really dig into what the message is all about”

And finally,

“That is the Christian life, isn’t it?  We look to a future hope of a restored creation.  The whole of scripture points to it, starting in Genesis 3!”

He gets it, that advent is not about looking back to the past, because Christmas is beautiful and the kids in Sheep hats are cute, but advent is about looking forward to the second coming and getting excited about what it means.

The first time, Jesus came and dwelt in our presence.  This time, He is coming to bring us back, so we can dwell in the Father’s presence.

You saw a description of that day when even the wilderness and desert will be glad!

Of all the cool things that will happen, I want to focus on two this morning,

Here is the first…

Those who can’t speak…

Hear the first part of verse 6 again.

“The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!”

Now, I look forward to the day when not one member of Concordia needs a cane or a walker, but they are lining up to go in the bounce house after

But what I am looking more towards is when those who cannot speak sing out for joy.

Interestingly, this is not just any song, it is the song of Jubilee in Hebrew, the rejoicing when every debt is cancelled, when everything is restored. It is the most joyous of sabbaths, the greatest rest in the presence of God that could be known in a lifetime.

That is what the people that can’t sing, learn to sing.

That is what being in the presence of God, and knowing how much he loves you does. It happens when we realize that He has taken care of all our sin, when everything we’ve ever done that has hurt someone, betrayed them, crushed their spirit is forgiven, all of it. I think it will be something like this,

Free at last! Free at last, praise God Almighty I am free of sin… at last!

Or maybe more like this…

Praise God from whom all blessing flow…praise Him all Creatures ..(and let them sing it out)

Streaming in..

If you think that was something now, imagine what it will be like in a year, when there will be 60-100 more people here?

Or what it will be like with a couple billion here, around the throne of God.  All excited because Christ has returned, the walkers and canes are tossed aside, and we are singing God’s praises. And all the other blessings are being realized.

When we see Jesus, who died that we might live eternally.

That bore the cost of sin so we didn’t have to,… not that’s not right.

He bore the cost of sin, so we could be with God the Father, forever.

That’s why verse 10 means so much, and so amazes me.

10  Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

Imagine how great that procession is going to be, every person for who Jesus died for, every person healed of everything, from blindness and being unable to walk to cancer and heart diseases, and most of all, healing of the damage that sin has done to us.

Ransomed, all the debt paid off we will flood into heaven like a flash food.. the mega crowd of billions heading to see God, to worship Him, to praise Him, to hear Him welcome us all home.

This is what we wait for in advent, and get a little foretaste of, every time we hear we are forgiven, every time we hear He is with us, every time we remember what He promised here, and see it again as another person is cleansed in the waters of baptism… We experience His presence, as he takes our cares away as we realize our prayers are answered, in ways more precious than we can imagine.

It is just as Brandon noted..with one thing added in… the Trinity.

“That is the Christian life, isn’t it?  We look to a future hope of a restored creation with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! The whole of scripture points to it, starting in Genesis 3!”

And every time Jesus meets us here, as we gather, and once again receive His Body and Blood…

This is advent, a time of now and not yet, a time where we glimpse a little of what it will be like when He returns because He has dwelt among us….and we beheld His glory, just as we will, even more clearly when He comes among us, and we dwell in the Father’s presence.  Amen!

We Talked About What People Should Expect of Their Pastor, But What Should He Expect of Them?

St Paul closing

Devotional Thought of the Day:

2 I have chosen Bezalel from the Judah tribe to make the sacred tent and its furnishings. 7 Not only have I filled him with my Spirit, but I have given him wisdom and made him a skilled craftsman who can create objects of art with gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood. 6 I have appointed Oholiabh from the tribe of Dan to work with him, and I have also given skills to those who will help them make everything exactly as I have commanded.you: Ex 31:2-6 CEV

†3 Judas had betrayed Jesus, but when he learned that Jesus had been sentenced to death, he was sorry for what he had done. He returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and leaders 4 and said, “I have sinned by betraying a man who has never done anything wrong.”
“So what? That’s your problem,” they replied. 5 Judas threw the money into the temple and then went out and hanged himself.
6 The chief priests picked up the money and said, “This money was paid to have a man killed. We can’t put it in the temple treasury.” 7 Then they had a meeting...  Matt. 27:3-7 CEV

612    Get rid of those proud thoughts! You are but the brush in the hand of the artist, and nothing more. Tell me, what is a brush good for if it doesn’t let the artist do his work?

Yesterday I wrote about the things that pastors should be doing, sharing the gospel with people everywhere, forgiving and retaining sins, and being that hands that administer the sacraments. The people of God should be able to expect these things, and indeed, ensure their pastors have the time to do so.

But what about the other side of the coin?  What should a pastor (and other church leadership) expect of those people they invest time serving?

I think we see that in the reading from Exodus, as two men are called, not to be priests and pastors, but to use their gifts in the service of God.  These two, out of two million people, were ordained and commissioned, set apart for a certain task. See how God has made it clear that the Holy Spirit is guiding him in this, and God has given him wisdom and made him a skilled craftsman for this very vocation?

Pastors shouldn’t have to beg people to use their God-given skills and wisdom to do what the Holy Spirit is preparing them to do.  Most of it isn’t miraculous stuff, it is day to day things, like these guys sewing together the tent, and making the furnishing.

The other thing is the one thing scripture shows Judas doing right, even as he does what some consider the worst sin in scripture. With great sorrow, desiring an answer for the guilt and shame he is feeling, e goes to the priests, looking for hope, looking for mercy, trying to figure out what do with his soul being crushed.

He did the right thing, even in the Old Covenant there was a way to confess sins and be given the hope of forgiveness, of having the sins washed away, of having God breathe new life into a soul oppressed by darkness. (That they “held a meeting” rather than absolving Judas might be the worst case of clergy malpractice in history)

Pastors need to expect people will come to be given hope, to confess their sins, that they will know they are forgiven. That is part of people’s responsibility, but it also takes pastors being open to it, encouraging it often. They need to be helping people to know the burdens they bear, guilt, shame, resentment, anger, are all within God’s ability to remove.  They need to know it is God’s desire to free them from that crap.

If these things happen, we won’t need to talk about reviving churches… it will happen naturally.

In summary, the people need to do, as part of the ministry of the family of God, what God has called them, gifted them with skill and wisdom, to do.

And come, as often as needed, to be assured of the grace of God cleansing them of every sin.

Lord, help this occur!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What’s a Pastor to do….What Should HIs People Expect of Him?

Do your job pastor

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Each day you must sacrifice two lambs a year old, 39 one in the morning and one in the evening.
People of Israel, I will meet and speak with you there, and my shining glory will make the place holy. 44 Because of who I am, the tent will become sacred, and Aaron and his sons will become worthy to serve as my priests. 45 I will live among you as your God, 46 and you will know that I am the LORD your God, the one who rescued you from Egypt, so that I could live among you.  Ex 29:38-39, 42–46.  CEV

5 Our teachers assert that according to the Gospel the power of keys or the power of bishops is a power and command of God to preach the Gospel, to forgive and retain sins, and to administer and distribute the sacraments. 

Ultimately speaking, a pastor/priest/bishop/deacon is nothing more than a sinner, who has been forgiven, He’s been tasked by God and the church with some simple things.

But there is so much more to do, than the things listed in the Augsburg Confession.

Which makes me wonder, how do we prioritize our time?  Are the things listed in the Augsburg Confession still our priority?  And in an era where the church in the United States is shrinking, shouldn’t we be trying to stem the losses, plan for the future, train up more leaders.

Are these things spoken about, preaching the gospel, forgiving sins, administering the sacraments, as out of date as the morning and evening sacrifices at the Tabernacle?

If we aren’t just “going through the motions” and doing what we’ve always done, because we always do it, these things are called to do can and will change, not only our church and community, but it will change the world.  In order for that to happen, we have to see the real value in these tasks, we have to understand what God is empowering to happen as He leads us to do this.

That is where the Exodus readings come into play.  The morning and evening sacrifices are, obviously, no longer needed.  But they point to the lamb that would be slain for our sins and recalling that sacrifice every morning and evening is a good practice.  One that lies behind Luther’s concept of remembering our baptism every morning and evening, remembering that we are united to Christ in His death and resurrection.  Remembering that unity, so that we dwell in it, knowing our sins are forgiven, more importantly, depending on the Holy Spirit who guides, comforts and protects us and serves as the guarantee of God’s love, and His work in our lives.

Which gets to the second half of the reading, and this little phrase, “because of who I AM!”  God’s identity changes everything.  It makes sinners saints, It shatters the darkness with light, it makes buildings into sanctuaries (like it made the tent a tabernacle) and it makes pastors (priests, etc) worthy to serve in that role.

How can’t this all happen because of who God is?  Simple, because God is with us. Because He dwells among us, we know He is God, our God, and is there for us – and that He rescues us for this very purpose.

His presence changes lives, not our logic and reason and 40 days of this and 50 days of that. It is our preaching the gospel, not just in the worship service, but as we visit people in their homes, or at the hospital. or in jail, all these things happen.  As we help someone in our office, or who visits our home, these things happen.

This is what our people need to know we do, that this ministry is not Monday_thursay 8-5 and a half-day on Saturday and Sunday.  Our people need to know that the gospel is available to them all the time, as is absolution, as are the sacraments.

It’s what we do…

Remind them that God is with them!

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 81.

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